Sal Culosi

A Good Man Killed:

I knew Sal Culosi. He was shot dead, "by accident," by Fairfax County Police last Tuesday. They had him under investigation for gambling. I don't know if he was guilty or not -- I have no information about it.

I did know him in his professional context, though, as an optometrist. He designed my most recent pair of glasses. While he worked at that, he had to deal with my rather energetic three-year-old son. No one could have been a kinder gentleman under the circumstances. He had young kids of his own.

The cops "said they were about to arrest Culosi outside his home Tuesday night when one of the officer’s guns accidentally went off, striking the doctor in his chest."

I am not sure why they felt it necessary to draw guns on a man who was a professional doctor, rather than a gangster. We'll leave that be, though -- Doc Holliday was a dentist, after all.

What I want to know is this: why was the officer's finger on the trigger? No one alleges Dr. Culosi carried or went for a weapon. There is no excuse I can see for this "accidental discharge." The NRA itself recognizes that "accidental discharge" is shorthand for "negligence." Why were these cops so poorly trained that they had their fingers on the trigger, with no hostile weapons in sight?

I think they killed a good man for no reason. I'm sympathetic to the police as a rule, and "veteran county police officers" in particular.

I see no excuse here. None at all. Dr. Culosi was thirty-seven.


The Washington Post article says it was the SWAT team that shot Dr. Culosi. We recently pointed to competing articles about the "SWAT mentality" that seems to have become popular with police departments. The argument for the pro-side, however, was always that the SWAT team's ability to bring intimidating force to bear was coupled with, and governed by, its excellent training.

If you've had only one firearms-safety class, you know to keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot. In fact, the Post found an officer to state this point:

"In my opinion, there are no accidental discharges," said John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association. Gnagey was not familiar with the Fairfax case but said that in general, "Most of what we see in law enforcement are negligent discharges, fingers being on the trigger when they shouldn't be."

Gnagey was in the camp that thought "SWAT teams shouldn't be doing all warrants." But once there, "the weapons are not pointed at anybody."
It's one thing to argue that the SWAT team is useful because it prevents violence by being especially well trained and capable of suppressing trouble. Maybe so; but that argument hinges on it being "well trained."

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